Cambridge Bay is a hamlet of about 1800 people (2016) on Victoria Island, in western Nunavut. It is the largest settlement on Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay is the largest stop for passenger and research vessels traversing the Arctic Ocean's Northwest Passage, a disputed area which the Government of Canada claims are Canadian Internal Waters, while other nations state they are either territorial waters or international waters.
Cambridge Bay is named for Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The traditional Inuinnaqtun name for the area is Ikaluktutiak (old orthography) or Iqaluktuttiaq (new orthography) meaning "good fishing place".
To the north of the community is Ferguson Lake which flows into Wellington Bay via the Ekalluk River. The Ekalluk River is an important commercial fishing and archaeological area. The area was a traditional hunting and fishing location and archaeological sites are often found.
Barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus), muskox (Ovibos moschatus), ringed seal (Pusa hispida), lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) were the primary prey, and remain important food sources. East of Cambridge Bay is Ovayok Territorial Park, which includes the large esker known as Ovayok (Mount Pelly).
The first known people to occupy the area were Pre-Dorset seal and caribou hunters, somewhere around 1800 BC, about 4,000 years ago. The next groups to enter the area were Paleo-Eskimo and Thule peoples; around 1500 AD, the modern Inuit made an appearance.
The first Europeans to reach Cambridge Bay were overland explorers led by Thomas Simpson in 1839; they were searching for a Northwest Passage and had crossed the sea ice on foot. Another overland expedition led by John Rae reached Cambridge Bay in 1851, and the first ship to reach the bay was under Richard Collinson who wintered there in 1852/53. Both Rae and Collinson were searching for Franklin's lost expedition. Collinson's ship came from the west, having entered the Canadian Arctic via the Bering Strait. This was the furthest east any large ship travelled from the Bering Strait until Henry Larsen in 1941. Cambridge Bay was the site of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) outposts established during the 1920s. Although at this point most Inuit would have continued the traditional lifestyle and only visited the area rather than live there permanently. The HBC opened a post here in 1921, later than in most places, and built at the site now called the "old town".
A Distant Early Warning Line site was established in 1955, and about 200 Inuit were hired to help in the construction.
Cambridge Bay has a polar climate, no month having an average temperature of 10 °C (50 °F) or higher, and has never recorded a temperature above freezing between 31 October and 19 April.
Although Cambridge Bay lies on the Northwest Passage, there are no passenger ships other than tourist cruises.
- 1 Cambridge Bay Airport (YCB IATA). Canadian North operates flights from Yellowknife (5 days a week, 1 hr 40 min, $482 one-way), and less frequently from Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven, Rankin Inlet and Taloyoak.
Cambridge Bay has no cars; only snowmobiles, ATVs, SUVs and trucks. There are three taxi services, run by the Co-op, Go Cargo Taxi and Ziggy's Taxi.
There isn't much to see in terms of sites. You're really coming to Cambridge Bay to experience life in a remote Arctic community.
- 1 Arctic Coast Visitor Centre, 3 Omingmak St, ☏ . Tourist information centre.
- 2 The Old Stone Church. The Roman Catholic stone church was built by the Oblate Missionaries in 1954 construction. The church was constructed from local material using seal oil and sand as mortar, and was used for services until the 1960s. In 2006, a large portion of the church, which had been designated a heritage site by the Hamlet Council, was destroyed by a fire which the RCMP said was deliberate. It is a great vantage point for photography of the hamlet across the water.
- 3 Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus - not accessible to the public, reported as a beautiful and eerily empty building, with prowling security guards.
- 1 Ovayuk Territorial Park (Uvajuq) (15 km (9 mi) east of Cambridge Bay). The park is named after a 200-m-high mountain that can see from the town on a clear day. Ovayuk is a distinctive feature of this flat coastal area, and has been a landmark for nomadic Inuit for many generations. There is a legend about giants who starved on the land. The Arctic Coast Visitor Centre can provide a guidebook that describes some 20 km of trails, camping areas and interpretive signage. The mountain is a four- to six-hour hike, or a 30-minute trip by car, from town. Muskoxen are often spotted along the road leading to the park.
There are several businesses in the community including a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada and a Canada Post postal service.
- 1 Ikaluktutiak Co-op, 18 Omingmak St, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 1-7PM. variety of items from fresh, frozen and canned foods to hardware and household items. The Co-op often has local art and handicrafts for sale.
- 2 Northern Store, 4 Mitik St., ☏ . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM. Fresh and frozen foods, and household items. The store features the popular Quick Stop snack bar with fresh pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken on the menu.
- 3 Kitikmeot Foods Ltd., 26 Mitik St., ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM. Offers plant tours, and a range of packaged and frozen locally harvested Arctic char fillets, lox and jerky. Muskox is often available.
Eat and drink
Be prepared for a next-to-impossible destinations situation. In communities in Canada's Far North, including Cambridge Bay, supplies like groceries are brought in by boat once a year, and flown in at other times. The cost of food is outrageously high. Bringing in some supplies of your own could help keep your costs down.
Muskoxen are harvested locally, and steaks and roasts may be available in season.
- 1 The Kuugaq Café, 16 Koihok Maghagak Rd, ☏ . Tu-F 8AM-6PM, Sa Su 10AM-3PM. A wide range of menu items including gluten-free options. Take-out available. Live music on Sundays.
- 2 Saxifrage Resto-Café, 21 Mitik St, ☏ . M-Th 8AM-7PM, F 8AM-8PM, Sa 11AM-7PM. Breakfast, lunch, supper, specialty coffees, teas, and desserts. They take bookings, as well as walk-ins. They offer takeaway, and table service.
- Umingmak Lodge Bed and Breakfast, 28 Iharulik Street, ☏ . Six spacious and bright executive suites each with separate sitting room and efficiency kitchen. A large, modern, fully equipped kitchen with adjacent great room. A full home-cooked breakfast, and frozen dinners are available. Airport pick-up and transportation to Umingmak Lodge and a daily shuttle service to and from work. Vehicles available for rent upon request. Gift shop in lobby featuring local art vendors. Exercise room with lockers for outdoor gear storage. Wheelchair accessibility – contact for information. Laundry room.
- 1 Arctic Islands Lodge, 26 Omingmak St., ☏ . Restaurant open to the public for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee during hotel hours. Private bathrooms, cable TV, laundry facilities, WiFi. From $250.
- 2 Green Row Executive Suites, 10 Omingmak St, ☏ . One and two bedroom self-contained fully furnished suites available for short or long-term rental. Each unit complete with cooking and laundry facilities. There are a total of 18 suites: 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom units are available. Rooms available at the Saxifrage Resto Cafe for customers who require meals.
Phone service is provided by Northwestel, a division of BCE Inc. and, with their companion Bell Mobility, also handle cell phone coverage. The community is also served by the Qiniq network. Qiniq is a fixed wireless service to homes and businesses, connecting to the outside world via a satellite backbone. The Qiniq network is designed and operated by SSI Micro. In 2017, the network was upgraded to 4G LTE technology, and 2G-GSM for mobile voice.
In 2012, the roads of Cambridge Bay were imaged for Google Street View by a tricycle fitted with a camera system.